Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Qualifying out of a Deal

When running a successful sales operation it is often not the cost of running successful sales efforts that hits the bottom line, but actually the cost of running unsuccessful efforts.  Think of it this way. If 50% of the net revenue was met by the sales costs, then if you have to convert more than 50% of opportunities to sales.  If you won 1 in 3 deals, you will be loosing money because of the lost opportunities.

So why not just make sure you are more successful? Because this isn't always a possibility. You might be an emerging technology, and some companies only buy from the Gartner top right quadrant!  You might have a best of breed niche solution, but the prospect wants to buy from a large existing provider. You might have something that is written in English, but have to sell it to a company whose internal language is French.  
So you rock up to a sales call, having found that there is a budget, a project, a recognition that your solution can solve their pain. So the opportunity is well qualified? Maybe... Maybe not.  You need to find out if this is an opportunity you can win.  If it isn't - like some of the above reasons - is it a fight worth fighting?

Not only is there a cost advantage in qualifying out of an opportunity early, there is an effort and a time advantage too.  How many trips have you made as an SE only to find out that the customer won't buy your product - or the chance is very small? 

As an SE, often this won't be your call, but your job is to ensure the sales team are well informed about the technical viability of your product.  Sure that many objections can be overcome, and that you need to really find out if an obstacle is a real one. However if you can find out more quickly that your solution is not one that is being seriously considered, then it is to everyone's advantage to not waste further time.

To check that a problem is not too serious, make the customer sell back the solution to you. Get them to tell you how you can get around the problem. Find out if they will install a windows server, in their Linux datacenter.  Find out if that small french speaking team can use a tool written in english.  Find out if there are other champions who might fight to get your product in to solve the problem.  If they won't fight for it, then it won't be very likely to win the business.

The advantage for the business again, if in the above example the customer could qualify out of the 2 lost deals earlier, and not spend 50% of the cost of sale on the losing efforts, the company might make money instead of losing it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How many Sales Engineers Does it take to...?

I find the book Mastering Technical Sales is a great handbook for SEs developing their career beyond being a demo dolly.

July's newsletter has an article looking at how to optimally structure a team of SEs to bring the best value to the business.

You can sign up to their newsletters and regular articles on their blog: http://masteringtechnicalsales.blogspot.com/



Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Salesforce for Sales Engineers

Why is it important for SEs to use SalesForce.com?



When Salesforce.com (or any other CRM) is your key point for communicating the value of the opportunities and current accounts, it is vital that all relevant data is summarised and available for the sales management to read.  Having all the information the deals you are working in your head, your email or just on a spreadsheet is not going to help people realise how your deals are going.  Since the job of the SE is to ensure that the technical recommendation (and the business one where possible) is made in your company's favour, it is important that the sales team is aware in general of how the deal is looking.

Of course business is fluid, and there may be times that the status quickly changes, but you should make a point of keeping the opportunity data up to date, and logging any important actions in the system.  Often, SEs and their Sales reps are often separated either by miles, timezones and availability, even the main two people on the deal will have to check what the status is, and it may as well be the same place everyone else will look.

Don't be afraid of putting problems or issues that you've discovered here. Your management will look upon these much worse if they turn up right at the time the deal was supposed to be signed, when you are hopefully off snowboarding in Colorado.

Putting templates of your RFP answers, and your regularly sent emails into the system means you can quickly send things out to lots of customers, or find that sizing recommendation that everyone needs.

So train your sales rep to put you in their Sales team, BCC salesforce.com onto any important emails you send out to your customers, and become that key person in the sales team that everyone knows you are.